Closing the city's busiest corner has Westminster worried.
From the fire hall to the Farm Museum to City Hall, everyone is expecting a major logjam when the State Highway Administration (SHA) closes Main Street at Center Street today for a minimum of three weeks.
The Main Street road construction that has hassled motorists for nearly six months reaches the intersection this morning as the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland begins work on underground lines.
Mayor W. Benjamin Brown was so concerned, he asked the SHA to consider keeping the road open to traffic and working around motorists.
The request was denied.
"The intersection has to be closed for safety and construction reasons," said Doug Rose, SHA district engineer. "Closing also expedites and accelerates the work."
The SHA is considering working extended days and Saturdays, in hopes of completing the project by Nov. 5.
"We would consider Sundays, but there is a church at this corner," said Bob Fisher, SHA engineer. "We have every intention of completion on schedule."
Capt. Charles Simpson of the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department said the closing "will impede access" for emergency vehicles.
"We are still dealing with two blocks of the road closed and now we add the intersection," he said.
The department, two blocks south of the intersection, responds to an average of 42 ambulance and 20 fire calls a week.
Fire Chief Jay Nusbaum said, "There is nothing more they could do to make it more difficult for us."
The department will use Green Street, which runs parallel to Main, as much as possible, but "it is parked full and so congested at rush hour," he said. Emergency crews may have to drive to Route 140 and back into the city.
"We can't get into congestions where people can't get out of our way," he said.
Ambulances can use Winter's and South alleys, one-way and parallel to both sides of Main Street, but the larger fire equipment can't maneuver in the narrow alleys.
This weekend, the closing will also inconvenience about 15,000 tourists expected to attend the annual Fall Harvest Days at the Carroll County Farm Museum.
"People will really have to want to come to get here," said Dottie Freeman, administrative marketing specialist at the Center Street museum.
Ms. Freeman has reviewed the detour routes with her staff and volunteers, who all will work to help visitors find their way.
"The route around Willis Street to Longwell is for people who really know Westminster," she said. "Visitors would be better to use Route 97."
Red 8-by-10-foot arrows will mark an alternate route on Route 97 to Hook Road and Route 32, then Smith Avenue.
The museum staff hopes the arrows and flashing SHA signs posted along Route 140 -- as far south as the state police barracks -- will cut confusion and direct visitors around the congestion.
Saturday could be the real test of a driver's resolve. In addition to museum traffic, motorists will have to skirt around Western Maryland College's homecoming parade along Main Street.
"We are just going to tell them to use Route 27 but expect delays," said Capt. Roger Joneckis of the city police.
Because of the increased traffic on Route 27, the SHA will alter the timing on the lights at Main and Green streets, said Mr. Rose.